Whether you’re a freelance photographer, run a hardware store, or run another form of small business, you need a good website to succeed. I know what it takes to create amazing and engaging business websites as a webmaster who has worked on over 100 small business websites constructing or promoting them.
Here are 10 critical stages to getting started and helping your small business website compete effectively in the online marketplace if you are trying to construct a new startup website or make your present site more effective.
Are you looking to create a new startup web designer or improve the effectiveness of your present one? Learn the fundamentals of… [+] getting started.
1. Get a good domain name first.
Your domain name, often known as your internet address, is frequently the first thing visitors see when they visit your site. It is critical that it makes a good first impression for both usability and search engine optimization considerations (SEO).
Here are some pointers on how to come up with a good domain name:
- Make it as simple to spell as possible. Avoid using slang, made-up phrases, or excessively esoteric terms.
- Make it as brief as possible. It’s easier to remember and type accurately if it’s shorter.
- Make sure you’re using the correct domain extension. Unless another extension, such as.gov,.edu, or.org, is more appropriate, try to make it a.com domain name (rather than.net,.co, etc.).
Numbers and hyphens should be avoided. They’re more difficult to recall, less elegant, and memorable than word-only domain names, and they’re more likely to be misconstrued when spoken aloud.
To promote future expansion, make the address as broad as possible. For example, Amazon.com is a significantly larger internet address than BooksOnline.com, allowing Amazon to sell almost any form of consumer commodity rather than only books, as it was intended.
Ascertain that it will be remembered. With so many websites on the internet, it’s critical that yours has a memorable name so that people remember how to find it in the future.
Look into the domain name. Look it up on Google to see if a comparable website URL already exists, then check USPTO.gov to make sure it doesn’t have any registered trademarks.
Check to see if the pricing is reasonable. Determine if you can afford to buy your preferred website address, as most good domain names are already occupied and must be purchased from the current owner.
Nonsensical names should be avoided. Choose a name that has meaning for users to understand what your company is about right away. Although Yahoo and Google are memorable brands, they were costly to brand, and your tiny business may not have the same resources.
Make a URL that is SEO-friendly. Try to come up with an SEO-friendly website URL that includes keywords and geo-location when possible, such as “www.LasVegasElectrician.com.”
2. Invest in a safe, scalable website hosting plan with excellent technical assistance.
A website host (also known as a website hosting provider) is a business that provides the technology and services required to access a website on the internet. You link your domain name to your hosting account so that when people type in your website address, they are taken to the website you have stored on your server.
Depending on the technology and support you choose, hosting services might cost anywhere from $2 to $100+ each month. When you buy a yearlong plan instead of a monthly one, you usually get a discount.
Here are some pointers on how to pick an excellent website hosting package:
Although a “shared server” hosting package can be had for as little as $2 per month, I would not recommend it. Shared hosting entails sharing a server and its resources with other customers, which can slow down your site’s performance. It’s also likely that if one of the other websites on your shared server is hacked, yours will be as well.
The most expensive choice is a “dedicated server” hosting plan, which can cost anywhere from $100 to $2,000 per month. However, it will ensure that your website performs at its best. A dedicated server plan means that the physical server machine is completely dedicated to your website; as a result, all of the resources are yours, and it is more secure than a shared hosting plan, as long as the technology is up to date. It is, however, significantly more expensive than most small enterprises are prepared to spend. This may be necessary once you have a high-performing site, but it is overkill for most early-stage and small firms.
A “virtual private server” (VPS) hosting plan, which combines the best of both worlds, is usually the best compromise I recommend. The price ranges from $20 to $50 per month, which is reasonable for the hosting services provided. A virtual private server (VPS) is a single system that is partitioned to act as numerous machines, giving it the same affordability as shared hosting while still providing the same security and performance as a dedicated server hosting package.
If you encounter an issue, be sure your hosting business has phone and/or chat assistance so you can get help immediately. When a problem needs to be fixed right away, email support can take too long and become annoying. The best way to get help is by phone, however chatting is also a good option.
To access your server, you’ll need a user-friendly server interface like cPanel. Unless you can afford to employ a professional server administrator to help you, you don’t want to have to use terminal commands to examine and edit the contents of your server.
Check to verify what kind of server security the server you’re contemplating has in place. You’ll need to be able to connect to your server using Secure File Transfer Protocol (SFTP) (SFTP). Your server’s contents should be backed up on a daily basis. Installing Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificates should also be simple, requiring only one or two clicks. Check to see if the hosting business does frequent security checks. Your hosting business should, ideally, have a written security procedure that you can check to see how they maintain their servers secure.
The following are some well-known website hosting companies:
- GoDaddy \sDreamHost \sBluehost \sInMotion \sSiteGround
3. Display a clear description of your company prominently.
It’s critical to let people know who you are and what you do right away on your small company website so they don’t get lost. Make sure your main homepage banner (also known as a “hero picture”) and subsequent banners are visual representations of your services, as well as a text snippet towards the top of the page that conveys who you are and what you do.
Additionally, make sure that “About Us” page links are easily available in both your main and footer navigation menus so that people can click them and learn more about your company.
4. Use the best content management system available.
A content management system (CMS) is a piece of software that allows you to produce and manage digital material. You don’t need much technical skills to use a solid CMS to help you maintain your site. You should select a CMS that is tailored to your specific requirements; different systems are utilized for various reasons, including user-friendliness, extensibility, and cost.
The following are some well-known systems, along with summaries of their advantages and disadvantages.
WordPress is the most widely used content management system in the world. It offers a large, active support community and a plethora of useful plugins to enhance your site’s functionality. (And if you can’t find a plugin that performs what you want, a WordPress developer can easily create one for you!) WordPress is also free and straightforward to set up. Most website developers are familiar with it, so finding someone or an agency to work on your site shouldn’t be difficult. Because of its versatility and extensibility, I usually recommend that small businesses utilize WordPress to build their websites.
It should be mentioned, however, that WordPress’s main flaw is security—hackers target it the most because of its popularity. To avoid being hacked, your WordPress site must be routinely updated and safeguarded. Furthermore, because it is difficult to secure every single third-party plugin, maintaining the security of your WordPress site must be a continuous effort involving multiple best practices (checking to see if your plugins have been updated within the past few months, making sure it is a plugin provided in the official WordPress repository, deleting unused plugins immediately, etc.).
Drupal is a well-known content management system. It has many of the same advantages of WordPress, including as flexibility, ease of use, and a large community of users. It is more secure than WordPress (less vulnerable to criminal behavior), but it lacks the same number of plugin and theme possibilities, making it less expandable. The White House website (Whitehouse.gov) used Drupal for a long time before switching to WordPress, which it still uses today.
Joomla! is a popular content management system. It offers greater SEO, security, and multilingual capabilities out of the box than WordPress; nevertheless, WordPress surpasses Joomlafeatures !’s with the addition of a few plugins.
Squarespace: Squarespace is a monthly or annual subscription service that enables creating websites and blogs a simple “drag and drop” experience. It all comes in one bundle, including website design, development, software maintenance, metrics, a domain name with an annual purchase, SSL security, 24/7 support, and unlimited bandwidth and storage hosting. It is especially designed for creatives and includes high-quality design templates. This is a terrific solution for you if you are on a limited budget and need a basic and beautiful site but can’t hire a website designer.
Squarespace has a far shorter learning curve than WordPress, Drupal, or Joomla!, but it lacks nearly as many extensibility options. Squarespace, on the other hand, is a wonderful alternative if you have little or no technical experience and are seeking for a quick and straightforward approach to create a website.
Wix: Wix is similar to Squarespace but has a more user-friendly interface. It has similar functionality and charges a monthly fee rather than an annual fee. Wix is likewise a drag-and-drop builder, allowing you to freely drag and drop elements anywhere on the website; Squarespace, on the other hand, is more structured in terms of where you may drag and drop things on the page. Wix’s learning curve is even lower than Squarespace’s, so if you need to get a site up and running quickly, this might be the best option.
Wix has a lot more templates to choose from than Squarespace, but once you pick one, you have to stick with it or you’ll have to fully rebuild your site. You may change your template on Squarespace at any time without having to rebuild the entire site.
5. Select an appropriate e-commerce platform
You’ll need the correct technology if you want to sell items and/or services through your website. (If you don’t already sell anything, you should think about it because e-commerce could help you improve your profits.) If you want consumers to be able to do financial transactions with you online, you’ll need to pick the correct platform for your business.
Here are some of the most popular e-commerce platforms for small businesses:
WooCommerce: WooCommerce is a popular e-commerce platform that allows you to turn your WordPress site into an online store. There are numerous plugins available, and it connects to WordPress, making it incredibly adaptable. There are numerous free and premium WooCommerce themes available. (Generally, using a premium theme from a known developer is preferable because it provides better security and support.) If you are not tech smart, you will almost certainly need the assistance of a WordPress developer to set it up and utilize it. WooCommerce also has a lot of functionality and scalability, which your small business may require.
Shopify is a cloud-based e-commerce platform that lets you build and personalize an online store while also managing products, inventory, payments, and shipping. It is a standalone platform that is hosted on the Shopify server, rather than a WordPress extension like WooCommerce, so if you have a main website, your e-commerce site would technically be independent from it. Unless your main website has a Shopify connection plugin, you can link to your Shopify account from your regular website built with WordPress, Drupal, Wix, or another CMS.
Unlimited products, unlimited bandwidth, fraud analysis, discount codes, reports, and much more are among the features. The main advantages of Shopify include the fact that you don’t need a developer to set up a store and that everything on the backend is fully set up for you when you subscribe. The disadvantage is that you don’t have nearly as much control or flexibility over your store as you would with WooCommerce.
Shopify Plus: Shopify Plus is the same as Shopify, but with greater customization choices, staff accounts, and international e-commerce options. It has a better level of support as well. All of this, of course, comes at a larger membership cost, and it still lacks WooCommerce’s versatility and customization capabilities.
Squarespace for Business: Squarespace has an e-commerce subscription option, so if you used Squarespace to construct your site and only have very basic e-commerce requirements, you can go this route. Squarespace imposes a transaction fee for businesses, however, this can be avoided by upgrading to a basic online store membership. A free domain, SSL security, SEO, abandoned cart recovery, discounts, real-time carrier shipment, and more are all included. It has been noticed, however, that it is not as user-friendly as Shopify. It’s also not as flexible as WooCommerce, just like Shopify.
Wix: Wix really provides a very user-friendly Shopify plugin. To use it, you’ll need to upgrade your Wix account and subscribe to Shopify.
GoDaddy Online Store: GoDaddy offers a new independent e-commerce subscription platform that is simple to set up and utilize. Launching your shop with GoDaddy Online Store requires very little technological experience. The templates are simple and tidy, and they can be customized to some extent. Marketing and SEO tools, social media integration, appointment booking, SSL security, and fast page loading are just a few of the features.
Other AllBusiness.com articles:
- Starting a Business: A Complete 35-Step Guide for Entrepreneurs
- Starting a Business: 25 Frequently Asked Questions
- 50 Inquiries Entrepreneurs Will Be Asked by Angel Investors
- 17 Crucial Business Lessons for New Entrepreneurs
6. Create a user interface for your website that is interesting, memorable, and engaging.
Make sure the UX of your small company website creates a great first impression that leads to conversions. You can do so by following the guidelines below:
- Make use of eye-catching images and legible typefaces.
- Check to see if your graphics have been compressed and optimized for quick loading. Search engines, such as Google, will penalize your rating if your website is slow.
- Investigate your competitors’ websites to see how they’ve built and optimized them; incorporate similar elements that will work for your small company website.
- Find out what your target audience wants from your site and make it simple for them to obtain it.
- Maintain brand consistency throughout the design of your website.
- Create an elegant navigation system that allows users to rapidly access the pages they require.
- Make contact information freely available.
- Include clear call-to-actions (particularly “purchase now” buttons).
- Create pages for small business websites that are conventional, such as:
- What we’re about
- Services/Products (with descriptions and visually appealing images)
- Map of the Website (for SEO purposes)
- Management group
- Please get in touch with us.
- Conditions of usage (the online contract governing how users can use your site) policy on data protection
- Additional pages that are related to your small business
7. Make your small company website search engine friendly.
SEO is a set of techniques you use on your website to guarantee that search engines properly index and rank it, and then display it to search engine users. When search engines “scan” your website, it competes with other websites with comparable information. The better the design and substance of your website, the higher it will rank in search engine results pages.
The following are the main components of SEO:
- Implementation and keyword research
- Code for a good website
- Quick loading time
- Having an SSL certificate loaded and being secure; SSL is a standard security protocol that ensures data sent between web servers and browsers remains secret.
- Having a mobile-friendly website is essential.
- Existence of high-quality backlinks (links to your site from other websites with comparable content)
- Having a large number of positive online reviews (Google, Yelp, Facebook, etc.)
- Internal links to keep people clicking and reading your site Using social media to link to your site (LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, etc.)
SEO is a continuous process that can mean the difference between appearing on the first page of search engine results pages (leading in a flood of free visitors to your website) and appearing on page 300. (resulting in no traffic).
8. Create and publish high-quality content on a regular basis.
Search engines value both amount and freshness of information, so make a plan to publish high-quality articles and/or blog posts on your own site as well as on sites that connect to yours. You must update your website with new and relevant material as regularly as possible if you want to rank well in search engine results and attract people to visit your site again and again.
In addition to static page content and articles, testimonials are a terrific type of material to provide on your website. Requesting client testimonials and then publishing them on your website is a terrific approach to add new, high-quality material to your website that will help your small business stand out.
Make sure your material is written in a tone that is appropriate for your business and that people will enjoy reading.
9. Download and install webmaster tools
Install Google Analytics and Google Search Console (both preferably via Google Tag Manager) as well as Bing Webmaster Tools to assist you analyze traffic and site performance. These tools can be used to keep track of the following data:
- Visitors visiting your site on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis
- The number of people who have visited each page of your website.
- The percentage of visitors who arrive to your site and leave after viewing only one page is known as the “bounce rate” (Google algorithms give higher rankings to websites that have a low bounce rate, on the theory that visitors are spending more time on the site and find it valuable.)
- Visitors’ average time spent on the site
- Errors in the crawling of your website (errors that the search engines found on your site in crawling its content)
- The site has several broken links.
- Keywords that bring people to your website
- Backlinks pointing to your website
- Time it takes to download a web page
- Other resources that can help you improve your SEO
10. Create a website upkeep strategy.
A website should not be built and then forgotten about. You must ensure that your website is properly maintained in order to have a successful website that ranks well in search engines and is not hacked.
Here are some pointers on how to make a website maintenance plan for a small business:
- At least once a month, review Webmaster Tools data and have any critical issues notified to you in real time.
- Use traffic statistics to have a better understanding of your audience so you can better serve them.
- Optimize and correct warnings and faults using performance data.
- Ensure that all software is up to current at all times.
- Conduct security scans to ensure that your website is malware-free and has not been compromised.
- Use “split testing” to evaluate if certain variations of your website improve performance; for example, if you’re selling a product, you might have two versions of a landing page with different graphics and wording—split testing allows you to see which version converts better.
- Follow my SEO suggestions (see point #7) and write high-quality material on a regular basis (see point #8).
- Find out how to market your company online in the most up-to-date and effective way possible.
- Allow visitors to your website to provide you with feedback.
- Continue to look at your competition’s internet presence from time to time to see what they’re doing and whether what they’re doing can work for you as well.
- Make sure your website is backed up at least once a day and at least 10 days back in multiple ways.
As you can see from this post, building a great small company website isn’t as straightforward as you may think. Your small business, on the other hand, will have a great chance of prospering in the online marketplace if you follow the procedures outlined in this article.